UNM's Weir: 'Social media has been a game changer for athletes'

Posted 5/6/20

By Will Webberwwebber@sfnewmexican.comIn a world where interpersonal communication has been reduced to wearing face masks, donning surgical gloves and giving at least six feet of space, the …

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UNM's Weir: 'Social media has been a game changer for athletes'

Posted

By Will Webber

wwebber@sfnewmexican.com

In a world where interpersonal communication has been reduced to wearing face masks, donning surgical gloves and giving at least six feet of space, the University of New Mexico men's basketball team found a new way to stay in touch.

On Saturday (April 25), Lobos head coach Paul Weir hosted a coaching clinic on the social media platform Zoom, forsaking the financial component usually associated with such clinics in order to interact for free. More than 100 people, mostly high school basketball coaches, signed up for two and a half hours of presentations by Weir and his staff, plus a short guest appearance by former Lobos coach Gary Colson.

Weir said he got the idea when he saw the Louisville basketball program do something similar recently.

"All of us are changing what we're doing and how we're doing it," he said. "I just thought it would be a pretty cool idea."

Weir shared his love of books and broke down game film, analyzing elements of plays in the kind of "coach speak" that most people might not understand. Assistant coaches Brandon Mason, Craig Snow and Dan McHale each took turns making presentations and fielding questions.

It didn't take long to spot one of the underlying themes of today's college basketball world. With social media being such a huge part of everyday life, Weir admitted a big portion of recruiting nowadays is affected by a player's role in its various platforms.

It's a way, he said, to get a broader perspective of what a player is all about.

"I'd say 25 percent of the kids we've stopped recruiting is because we've looked at their social media," Weir said. "And I'd say 25 percent of kids go up in your eyes because you've looked at their social media and they're branding and representing themselves the right way."

The Lobos have also expanded their methods for critiquing prospective recruits. Mason showed a simple checklist form the staff uses to pinpoint elements each recruit brings to the table. It has boxes to identify foot speed, length motion, shooting ability and how good of a teammate they are.

Still, there's always the way a player interacts with the outside world that can't be ignored.

"Social media has been a game changer for athletes," Mason said. "It can be a great tool for players and coaches to market themselves."

Weir has all but vacated high-profile platforms like Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, preferring to get most of his information second hand from his assistant coaches.

"I'm not not on social media for some weird reason other than I really think my time is best served not spending all that time on there," Weir said.

A bookworm by his own definition, he said he missed an April Fool's joke by one of his players simply because he's not trolling the internet the way many people do.

Incoming freshman Bayron Matos created a stir April 1 when he announced on Twitter - just hours after Vance Jackson revealed that he had signed with Arkansas as a grad transfer - that he, too, was leaving UNM. He jumped back onto his personal account late that night to say it was a gag.

Weir didn't find out until the following morning.

"As I scrolled through my texts he apologized," Weir said. "You know, he said, 'Hey coach my bad.' I was just, 'Whatever,' and I said don't worry about it. I don't take social media that seriously enough. I know some people kind of do, to where I was just going to have some big meltdown."

The Lobos have had more than their fair share of legitimate departures with the offseason transfers of Jackson, JJ Caldwell and Vante Hendrix, not to mention the loss of three seniors. Weir has retooled the roster with five recruits, the latest of which is junior college point guard Saquan Singleton.

Singleton is but the latest example of Weir's more ambitious screening process. Mason said the checklist the staff uses now was nothing more than a line or two when they started it in 2017. It now involves a more thorough analysis, one that concludes with an interview either in person or over the phone.

Singleton spent roughly half an hour speaking to Weir after the UNM staff came up with four or five recruits to take over at point guard.

After that conversation, Weir told his assistants that Singleton's responses made him the only target worth pursuing.

They signed him to a scholarship earlier this month.

It's just another example of making things work when face-to-face interaction simply isn't allowed.

Like it or not, social distancing can work wonders when done right, and Saturday's free online coaching clinic was UNM's way of demonstrating that.

"Coaching is a brotherhood, a fraternity of coaches, and hopefully we were able to kind of give them something that was important to them," Weir said. "Really, none of this was for us. It was more about just giving to the coaches that could come."

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